Liz Truss may have been a Remainer but she has learned the political lesson of the EU referendum in the way that her genuine Brexiter opponent has seemingly failed to do.
The point is that in today’s milieu, and especially with an electorate of 160,000 largely Brexit-supporting Tory members, power is with the insurgent.
In pinning her colours to at least £30 billion of immediate tax cuts, against Sunak’s steady-as-we-go no-tax-cuts-till-prudent mantra, she has defined herself as the crusader against alleged stultifying Treasury orthodoxy.
Every time a credible economist accuses her of risking financial ruin - by pushing up national debt and inflation - all she has to do is whisper “there they go again, the spineless establishment, refusing to take the risks that will restart Britain’s economic motor”.
And as and when big business stands up and expresses anxiety, they would just paint her even more firmly on the side of the little people - even if in reality it is the little people who have most to lose from rampant inflation.
We’re in a world where logic, facts and economic history do mot have the power they once had. Economists and experts remain a discredited class.
So when Sunak sniggers about her Remainer and Lib Democrat past, as he did in the ITV debate, she just implies “I’ve owned up to my mistakes, but you actually put up national insurance and corporation tax and you’re still defending that”.
The Brexiters won the argument in 2016 because they understood the power of saying “we offer hope, the other side offer fear and establishment-protecting caution”.
That argument, reworked, is Truss’s. And given that she and Sunak agree on pretty much everything else of substance, it is perhaps unsurprising that Sunak has so far failed to graze her with a counter punch.
And for him the fight could be over far too soon: within a matter of only days Tory members will be able to send in their votes.
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